Court declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision

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The U.S. Pentagon.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Wednesday decided not to dismiss a protest lawsuit filed by Amazon over rival Microsoft being awarded a controversial $10 billion cloud-computing contract instead of Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Microsoft in October 2019 was awarded the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract, but Amazon quickly filed the lawsuit alleging that the Trump administration interfered in the award.

The Pentagon’s new cloud system is now in limbo as Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith has issued a sealed decision that effectively deflects Microsoft’s and the Defense Department’s attempt to get work underway on the contract, which has been halted since February 2020.

The decision is a major win for Amazon as it seeks to prove that then-President Trump used “improper influence” to keep the multi-billion dollar contract away from the tech giant.

But the Pentagon could now scrap the contract altogether and restart in an effort to avoid a messy, drawn out proceeding.

In a statement on the decision, AWS again pushed its claims of influence by Trump.

“AWS continues to be the superior technical choice, the less expensive choice, and would provide the best value to the DoD and the American taxpayer.We continue to look forward to the Court’s review of the many material flaws in the DoD’s evaluation, and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the Department has access to the best technology at the best price,” according to an AWS spokesperson.

Microsoft released its own statement saying the procedural ruling “changes little.”

“Not once, but twice, professional procurement staff at the DoD chose Microsoft after a thorough review. . . . We’ve continued for more than a year to do the internal work necessary to move forward on JEDI quickly, and we continue to work with DoD,” Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw said in the statement.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon, the leader in the cloud-computing marketplace, was thought to be the front-runner in the competition. But Microsoft is also a popular cloud-computing partner for the federal government and the Pentagon has maintained that the company was simply best-equipped to create the DOD’s cloud infrastructure.

The situation became messy beginning in summer 2019, when Trump began to publicly question whether the JEDI contract was written with Amazon in mind.

Amazon alleges that Trump used “public and behind-the-scenes attacks” to steer the contract away from AWS out of spite for his “perceived political enemy,” Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

Shortly after Trump made his remarks, newly appointed Defense Secretary Mark Esper opened up a review of the JEDI program in August, pumping the brakes on a process that was already stalled by an unsuccessful court challenge from Oracle – who also bid on the contract – and several government investigations.

But the Pentagon in September reaffirmed its decision to give Microsoft the contract, saying the review determined that Microsoft’s proposal represents “the best value to the Government.”

Tags Amazon Donald Trump JEDI Jeff Bezos Mark Esper Microsoft Pentagon
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